Michael A. Taylor is back in center. Jayson Werth is off the DL and playing right for now. Trea Turner is leading off and playing short again. Ryan Madson is back in the bullpen. With the regular season coming to a close, and the Washington Nationals’ magic number dropping every night, Dusty Baker talked to reporters on Monday afternoon about getting everyone back, healthy, and sharp in time to make another postseason run.
Not everyone is back just yet, however.
Baker said that everyone was getting back in sync after the Nationals were missing a couple big weapons in the bullpen and on the field, but there’s one piece they’re still waiting on... though no one is rushing Bryce Harper back.
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week, Mike Rizzo, who’ll be back on the show this morning, likely with an update, said that the Nationals want to make sure Harper is as close to 100% as possible when he does return, but they still expect him to be back at some point this season.
“We’re very optimistic that he’ll play in the postseason, he’ll get some at bats at the end of the regular season to prepare himself for the postseason,” Rizzo said.
Though the hyperextended left knee, significant bone bruise, and what Harper said was a calf strain he suffered after slipping on a wet first base trying to beat out a ground ball last month are serious injuries, Rizzo said he had a hard time imagining Harper not getting back for postseason action.
“If he’s healthy and able and pain free and the doctors and Harp give the green light we’ll certainly let him play,” Rizzo said.
“And we ask with our players that they be honest with their condition and he always is, but let’s face it, you’re going to have to do a lot to keep him out of the lineup come playoff time, and like I said, we’re not going down that road, we’re optimistic that he’s going to be available, and that’s how we’re planning for it.”
Harper took a small step toward a potential return on Tuesday in Miami...
Bryce Harper playing catch for first time since injuring his knee 3 1/2 weeks ago... pic.twitter.com/XlSelpOKUZ— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) September 5, 2017
While it was only what reports from Marlins Park said was a “light catch” from about 30 feet, Baker said he saw it as a good sign of progress at least.
"It's very encouraging,” Baker told reporters, as quoted on MLB.com.
“You know, you see him doing light baseball activities, you know he's on the way. Nobody can predict exactly where he is, but he at least initiated signs of progress. You can't rush progress."
Adding Harper and his .326/.419/.614 line, 27 doubles, and 29 home runs to the lineup would obviously be a big boost, but as Harper said in the immediate aftermath of the injury, he wants to be fully-healed when he gets back on the field.
“I want to be at 100% as I go out there,” Harper said last month.
“I’ve played through injury before and I’m not going to do that anymore in my career.
“Of course, if we were in the playoffs right now, I’d tape it up and get out there and hobble the best I could.”
While he’s healing up, Harper made sure that his hair game is 100%...